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2023 Position Previews: Can FSU’s special teams take another step forward?

Will Winston Wright Jr. be the x-factor?

Peyton Baker/Tomahawk Nation

After some struggles in 2021, 2022 was a much improved year in special teams for the Seminoles.

They scored their first return touchdown since the 2014 National Championship game, with running back Trey Benson getting six on the opening kickoff vs. Boston College (the first in Doak Campbell Stadium history).

Though he’s now with Utah, Mycah Pittman also proved to be a very dependable option in the return game for the Seminoles. While he did not score a touchdown, he brought the consistency the program needed after having 4 muffed punts in 2021. FSU will try a few faces both new and familiar as it looks to solidify a return man.

The biggest concern for the Seminoles has to be the kicking situation. Last year Ryan Fitzgerald struggled and lost his confidence over the course of the season. This was such an issue that the ‘Noles would opt to go for it on 4th down often when most teams would attempt a field goal.

Florida State Seminoles football: Special teams

2022 stats

PFF Grades:

  • Mycah Pittman: 71.1 Return Grade (21 total returns, 19 fair catches, 0 touchdowns)
  • Sam McCall: 53.1 Return Grade (8 total returns, 2 fair catches, 0 touchdowns)
  • Trey Benson: 76.7 Return Grade (5 total returns, 0 fair catches, 1 touchdown)
  • Ryan Fitzgerald: 12/20 kicks made (0/3 kicks beyond 50+ yards, 3/6 kicks between 30-39 yards)
  • Alex Mastromanno: 34 total punts, 15 inside the 20 yard line (12 punts returned for an average of 6.2 yards per punt)

Main name to know

Winston Wright Jr.

Wright Jr. one of the top candidates to take over kickoff return duties in 2023. In his three seasons at West Virginia, he had 51 returns for 2 touchdowns, 2 fair catches and he averaged 24.6 yards per return.

He was sidelined for the 2022 season after sustaining a leg injury in a car crash prior to the start of the season but has returned to fall camp with no restrictions. While others will get opportunities Wright is the most proven returner on the team.

All but one of his returns came from kickoffs, so it will be interesting to see if the team also tries him out as a punt returner.

Returning players

  • Trey Benson

Benson returned the only touchdown for the Seminoles last year. He is going to be more of a bell-cow running back this season but the ‘Noles can still opt to use him in big-game situations and they likely will again this season.

  • Redshirt junior Ryan Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald will have to elevate his play this season with the Seminoles bringing in an experienced kicker through the portal. Fitzgerald did struggle last season after getting off to a bad start he went 7/10 on field goals through the last 6 games of the season.

  • Redshirt junior Alex Mastromanno

Alex Mastromanno has been extremely consistent for the Seminoles over the last three seasons, he averaged between 42-43 yards per punt in all three of his seasons in Tallahassee.

  • Redshirt freshman Mac Chiumento

The Daytona Beach native is listed as a punter on the roster, but handled kickoff duties six times for the Seminoles last season (one vs. Duquesne, five vs. Florida). In high school, he also handled extra points.

New faces

  • Freshman Destyn Hill

Mentioned as a possible option in the return game by head coach Mike Norvell, alleviating the lack of reps from Hill not being able to be on the field by getting him started with the return team is a great way for him to get some experience early on — especially considering the Seminoles’ depth in the receiver room.

  • Junior Keon Coleman

Coleman didn’t have any recorded returns over his time at Michigan State but in the same case as Hill, was mentioned by Norvell as a candidate for return specialist and has been working with the return team in the Seminoles' practices.

  • Redshirt junior Deuce Spann

Another talented athlete who might suffer from the fact there’s only one football to go around, Spann showcased plenty of speed last season in flashes on offense and could add another element to the Seminoles’ return game.

  • Tyler Keltner

Tyler Keltner transferred from East Tennessee State after starting for two seasons as their kicker. In 2022 he converted 17/23 field goals and in 2021 he converted 18/23.

Over that time he was extremely dependable inside the 50-yard line where converted 34/40 field goals. If Fitzgerald falters again, he is the next man up for the Seminoles.